Friday, 31 January 2014

10 ways to increase your vocabulary in a Foreign Language

  Watch DVDs with subtitles turned on. 
I prefer English audio with foreign subtitles for two reasons.  I learn best through reading and writing, whereas my husband is an auditory learner.  He learns by osmosis picking up many words just by being around me. If I am watching the movie alone, I turn on Foreign audio and subtitles together for more immersion. Try different websites from YouTube to Lingua Media Player and more[1]

Read lots of books: 
library books, textbooks, secondhand books, ebooks, audio books. My favourite is Piccolo Donne.  It is a classic and it is a pleasure to read a familiar text to extend my vocabulary[2] 

 Play Duolingo[3] online with other language learners.
So far, this web based game includes the folloeing languages: Italian, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese. More languages to come including; English for speakers of Polish, Russian, Turkish, Dutch and Hungarian. Duolingo is available as a web application or as an iPhone app. It will always be free, because learns help to translate the internet to new languages. 

 Read foreign newspapers.
After I have a good understanding of about 5 chapters of grammar.   Barry Farber (author of How to Learn Any Language) recommends to start translating the first sentence of the first page of a newspaper.  As you graduate to the first paragraph, the first column, the first article and the first page you are well on your way to become a master of the new language.  Of course, when you find the first few sessions a bit intense, take a break a try the bite size section - the horoscopes.  Smaller sections of 12 horoscopes let you focus for a smaller session as your brain crunches through the vocabulary, verbs and grammar little by little.  Also, it is easier to sink your teeth into a familiar text where you can predict more words from prior knowledge. Try French newspaper: le monde[4], and Italian newspaper: Corriera della sera[5], 

 Speak only in that language one day  a week. 
A parent lead teaching resource encourages you to practice one day a week with your family/household.  The suggestion of Tuesdays is put forward where the family/household/housemates actively use as much foreign language as possible.  Early weeks while be re-enforcing basic vocabulary and greetings until familiar.  Conversations will grow over time to include more and more topics as everyone gains from vocabulary and learns to ask questions, answer appropriately and listen to the other speakers answers.   Beginners will start with short answers of yes and no onto short sentences rephrasing the question to answering with adding more detail. [6]

Make 100 mistakes a day. 
Benny Lewis is a world traveller and an experienced language learner. [7]  One rule of thumb among many others in his Fluent in 3 Months program is to make 100 mistakes a day.  The theory is if you are speaking and writing enough to make 100 mistakes every day, you are talking more, writing more to gain confidence and feedback from each mistake.  As a teacher, I know my students learn more from the questions they got wrong, then their perfect score on a test.  A mistake made and reflected upon is remembered better than from when the rule is first taught to the learner.

Ask questions anytime anywhere. 
A multi-linguist and published author, Bary Farber, encourages list making to allow you to practice with a fellow language learner anywhere, anytime.  If you keep a running list alongside your reading and listening to authentic target langauge sources. If you keep that list of questions in your smart phone, email or handbag, you will be ready when you bump into a native speaker at the shops, cinema or even waiting room.  Maximising each opportunity will fast track you to understanding the ins and outs of your foreign language.[8] 

 Keep a diary in the target language. 
This may start simply while you cover the basics.  You may list your daily activities and the weather to start.  Over time, new topics of vocabulary, verb and grammar will support you to write over topics including: past events and future dreams, opinions and current events in your community, the world and your family. 

 Set your computer to the target language.
If you are technology inclined, you can set the language on your computer in Microscoft word and even your email program like Gmail.  Let’s you learn modern words like email and in box that are evolving all the time.  For example, Italian has used a variety of words already for mobile phones as yet: il cellulare, il telefono cellulare e il telefonino.  Modern words evolve for modern technologies in the 21st century and beyond.

 Learn SMS abbreviations of modern day target language. 
Italians use a different language or abbreviations for texting on a mobile phone.  Just like English, it is about shortening words to make texting quicker while still conveying a complete message.  The challenges start when people use uncommon or unusual abbreviations that may confuse the reader.  The next challenge is to learn to read, write and exchange texts in a foreign language.  It will challenge your vocabulary, knowledge of verbs and grammar and text you on context.  Context can be an issue when context is often assumed and not spelt in the brevity of e text message.[9]

How do you encourage students to brainstorm in your lessons?
Please comment with your favourites :-)


[2] Try websites like

No comments:

Post a Comment